The accident took place on Interstate 22 near the Industrial Boulevard exit in Jasper. Officials have estimated more than 1,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the pond which empties into Cane Creek. Jasper Fire Capt. David Clark told members of the Jasper City Council Tuesday the department didn’t have the necessary equipment to contain that type of spill.
“It was a traumatic situation,” Clark said. “Not having the right equipment put us about 40 minutes behind the ball to get containment on the fuel.”
Clark, who is handling the responsibilities as fire chief after Chief Calvin Kluesner was suspended indefinitely with pay on Monday, approached council members with a list of items the department needs to handle similar incidents. Clark said 95-gallon container barrels, which include absorbant pads which can soak up oil from water, are desperately needed. He also said booms used to slow down oil or fuels traveling downstream are needed items. Clark estimated the cost for the needed amount of barrels and booms to be around $2,700.
“The fuel spilled in a pond area and went over the dam. At that point, we were fighting rapids and it made it downstream,” Clark said. “This might not happen again for two years, but if we had these items we would have been able to contain it.”
Clark said this would be an up-front expense, but added the department should be compensated in the future by insurance companies for any equipment they use in similar accidents.
Clark also asked the council for 12 radios, which will help the department’s communication efforts.
“We had a tough time communicating during the storms in March,” he said.
The total price for the spill equipment and the radios are $6,300, Clark said.
The fire department recently sold a surplus camper trailer via online auction and made $5,600. Clark said those funds could be used to purchase the needed equipment, leaving the city with only $700 to pay.
Council members voted unanimously to pay for the equipment.
County officials are also considering buying more equipment that could be used in case of a fuel spill.
County EMA Director Johnny Burnette spoke with members of the Walker County Commission during its meeting Monday morning about the need for more booms.
The county would request the items and disperse them back to volunteer fire departments who used them in last week’s incident.
“We’ll get the money back from the insurance companies,” he said. “Sometimes it just does better if it comes from us than from each individual volunteer fire department.”
Commissioners asked Burnette to provide a detailed list of needed items.
“We’ll definitely get the supplies,” Chairman Billy Luster said. “We just need to have a concrete list before we do that.”